Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sonny had five fingers, but he only used 'tree'

We are watching A Bronx Tale as a sort of case study for our first unit.  Watch it here on mediacast (if that link does not work, try this one.) A Bronx Tale is based on a true story. Chazz Palmenteri (who plays Sonny) witnessed a murder growing up in an Italian neighborhood in NY. He wrote a one man play about it in 1989. A few years later it was made into a movie and Robert DeNiro directed it. When I first heard Palmenteri talk about the real life events, I couldn't believe it. If you get the chance, listen to this interview with Palmenteri about the story. Click listen now for the full story.
Also, in the spring of 2009, Palimenteri performed the story as a one-man play in Chicago. I got to see it live!

If you need reminders from the movie, click here for a list of important quotes from the movie.

There's a few ways that I like to think about the movie. One is the theme of love throughout the movie. I think the movie is really about love, especially the love of a father for his son. But it is also about love versus fear/violence. Sonny told C that "Fear lasts longer than love," but at the end of the movie, no one fears Sonny any more, but his C still loves him and still feels loved by him. Also, Carmine stops by and so does C's dad both to show that they care about Sonny and they still love him. Love transcends death, but fear does not. Fear on the other hand, leads to violence and violence begets more violence. We see this throughout the movie as violence starts small (throwing a stick at the bus) but then it grows and gets out of control (firebombing at the end, and even Sonny's fate). I also think the idea of art imitates life imitates art imitates life... is interesting. This movie was based on real life events of Chazz Palimentieri and then the movie influences real life when it thrusts Lillo Brancato into stardom and seals his fate.
Sometimes they say "art imitates life imitates art..." Here is a link to a 20/20 interview about how Lillo Brancato became the wasted talent that his friends were in the movie.
Micro-Macro Dynamics
The racism throughout the film is obvious. What is often taken for granted is where the racism comes from. What are the micro and macro sociological forces that create this racism? Think in terms of the Abandon Ship exercise. How did micro and macro forces come together to influence who was saved and who was tossed? Apply this to the racism in the movie. Can you see any micro or macro sociological forces in your own life?

What are all the groups that Calogero belongs to? (Think in terms of the circles exercise we did in class.) Would you put him in Sonny’s crew, or would you put him and Sonny in their own group? What is Calogero’s Master Status? Why do you think so? Do you think his master status changes throughout the movie? What is your own master status? Has it changed throughout your life like it has for Calogero?  You might even discuss the characters in terms of their ingroups/outgroups.

Social Construction of Reality
How is their reality in the neighborhood socially constructed? What are the unwritten rules that govern how you can or can’t act? How do you think this construction came about? Can you see their racist attitudes as a social construction? What are some socially constructed ideas that you believe?

Sociological Imagination
Use your imagination to think about the dynamics and social forces that created Calogero’s “world”. How did the neighborhood come to exist? How did the different groups within the neighborhood come together there? Clue: the movie doesn’t show this, you have to think about what the movie doesn’t show. Another way to put it is how are Calogero’s personal troubles (his biography) part of the bigger picture (his history and society)? How is this similar or different than the groups that have shaped your life?

Sociological Mindfulness
Who is sociologically mindful in the movie? How is this character sociologically mindful and how does this sociological mindfulness affect him? Do you think it makes a difference in his life? How might sociological mindfulness make a difference in your own life?


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. "C" is just like everyone else...we get racism from our parents and everyone who surrounds us. No matter how hard we try not to be racist, we just are, even the lightest thoughts can be racist. IE: When "C" met Jannie's brother, "C" said the N word, but by accident.

  3. C, is part of many different groups, but the 2 most important ones are the group with his father(aka family) and the group with Sunny. Both these figures pose as fatherly figures, and as opposite as these two men are, they are eerily similar. Both men preach a statement of be better than me. Sunny does this by saying, "don't live my life", and his father does it by saying, "use your wasted talent". All in all, we can clearly see this sociological point in the end when he does the right thing and try to prevent his friends from beating up those African Americans, and when he dates Jane, against his father prejudicial view point.

  4. I feel that it is not only the people that construct a neighborhood, but it is the beliefs. While some families teach some kids one thing that others will teach them the opposite. Not based on color not based on gender, I fell it is the way people are taught to live and how they are grown up.

  5. This movie protrayed a lot of racism but it all of racism is brought upon by parents or who ever raises you. Clearly C's parents were racisct considering C's father didn't want him to date Jane. Even though C's parents were racist C finally realized that it was wrong and that he viewed African Americans the same way as him. Even though you might grow up in a racist household you can change your perspective on it.

  6. The prejudice definately comes from the environment you grow up in. C himself did not have strong racist feelings, but because he grew up around very racist people, he had a tendancy to make some racist remarks he doesn't mean to (like when he was talking to Jane and her brother by Sunny's car). It's kind of like I think it was difficult for us to see the Italians beating the blacks because we were never brought up with that kind of hatred brought to our attention.

  7. i think C wasn't really in a certain group. he kind of had more then one group going. i am also the sameway

    also answering back to ur comment
    i picked up MMA after i was off of Court order 6pm-6am curfew
    i study muay thai which is like western boxing and jiu-jitsu/submission grappling
    and i have been wrestling since seventh grade
    and lax is lacrosse

  8. I think "C" was apart of a bunch of groups & you could see how his "master status" changed through out the movie.

  9. "C" was part of many groups through out the movie. His friends were one group which he stayed with as he grew up, another one would be Sunny and his "crew".

    As for his master status, I believe it was a mixture of what his father's status was in the neighborhood and part of Sunny's. Since he was so close to the both of them.

  10. As we watched the movie, there were obviously a lot of racist and prejudice comments made towards the blacks. Our envirnment and the people we live around definately has a tremendous affect on how we act towards one another. In the movie, Collogero's parents are racist and as a result, Collogero thinks that if it's okay that his parents are racist then it's okay for him. I think our parents and our family have an impact on the way we act in our societ.

  11. This movie was interesting to watch. I remember in school growing up, we'd learn about different races - mostly blacks and whites and how the whites were racist towards the blacks. It's clearly shown that in this movie "C" grew up in a racist family. He learned that the blacks aren't of higher status than his own race. However, as the movie progressed, "C" has learned to accept the blacks for who they are. It shouldn't matter what color they are on the outside because in truth, everybody is the same.